Narrator: This is Science Today. One of the most common elements in organisms is nitrogen. Usually, organisms get nitrogen from other sources, like ammonia or nitrate that are present in the environment. Jonathan Zehr, a professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, says researchers have been interested in learning where organisms get their nitrogen in the oceans because in the larger parts of the sea, there are low concentrations of nitrogen.
Zehr: Microscopic plants in the oceans depend on nitrogen and where they get their nitrogen determines really how much productivity in the oceans can be sustained, including fish yields.
Narrator: Zehr discovered a previously unknown source of nitrogen production in the ocean in the form of a photosynthetic bacteria that converts atmospheric nitrogen into a form other organisms can use.
Zehr: What this means is that more organisms can support productivity even under nitrogen limiting conditions than we've previously thought. So it has really, implications for people trying to model what controls the nitrogen budgets in the ocean.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.